Yes, that title is correct: Holiness by Grace! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Like me, you may have grown up listening to sermons and Sunday School lessons that seemed to press home some point, “step on your toes,” and challenge you to live a better life each and every week. If you really focused on making the specific changes that you were recommended, you may sooner drive yourself to the insane asylum or give up completely.
What then is this notion of holiness coming by grace? In the book, Dr. Bryan Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary, seeks to answer that very question. In the book of Galatians, Paul talks about how we received salvation by no merit of our own and that it was completely a free gift from God by way of Christ’s work for us on the cross. Paul goes on to say that by this same way we also receive our righteousness and holiness.
As R.C. Sproul discusses in his book The Holiness of God, holy does not only mean “pure” but “set apart.” Obviously, those who are called to salvation are “set apart” from those who are lost. That calling to salvation is by the Holy Spirit and just as the Spirit convicts us of our sin and draws us to Christ, He also gives us the means and ability to serve God and glorify Him through our lives.
Holiness is not only a doing, but a manner of living in light of the presence of God. It means that we put our faith and confidence in God, trusting that He knows what is best for us in every circumstance, in spite of how the events may appear.
Of the 34 books I have read so far in 2011, this has been by far the most personally challenging. I read this book while sitting with my now 3-month-old son as he recovered from surgery in the Pediatric ICU. Watching his condition moment to moment, listening to the puzzlings of the medical staff, and see him get better only to slip away again made every cell in my body want to cry out with anguish to a God who did not seem to hear.
Yet even in those dark moments God was present. His was not a passive presence, but God exudes power wherever He is. We can be confident of our salvation and our adoption as sons of God. And if I am to believe that I am God’s son, then I surely cannot think that he does not want the very best for me and for all those who He has called to salvation.
What then was I to do? In meditating on God’s promises and the assurance that He gives his beloved, I was able to place my worries into His hands and believe that even if the worst were to happen that it is all in God’s sovereign plan. Did it make the pain any less? No, but God knows my pain and He also knows what is best for his sons and daughters.
God has been gracious to our family, and He has given increasingly rich health to our son. His full recovery will likely not be for a few years, but we have seen God’s provision through meals, visits, finances, and prayers of a loving and supportive group of family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. God is graciously working His work of holiness in our lives.